De­fend­ing the crown

Tri Pen Ice be­gin de­fense of AAA league ti­tle

The Compass - - SPORTS - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER

The Tri Pen ban­tam AAA Ice are only a cou­ple games into their sea­son and al­ready they can see a dif­fer­ence in the league.

And, that dif­fer­ence is some­thing ev­ery league in the world strives for.

“We haven’t played ev­ery­one yet, but we can see there is a bit more par­ity in the league,” said head coach Nel­son Ben­nett.

“It’s great for the league. Ev­ery­body is a lit­tle bit closer to­gether.”

Par­ity is a bit of a buz­zword when it comes to sports. All leagues want it, but very few are able to at­tain it.

It’s some­thing that the league strug­gled with in its first sea­son. Tri Pen (48 points) were 44 points bet­ter than the last place Cen­tral IcePak ( four points). The Ice were 37 points bet­ter than fourth place Western.

That ap­pears to have changed this sea­son. Where last sea­son you could pretty much put a check in the win col­umn against the likes of Cen­tral and Western, that isn’t the case this sea­son. Just two week­ends ago, the Ice needed over­time to put away Cen­tral.

Al­though, they haven’t played Western yet, Tri Pen feels like ev­ery­one in the league is get­ting closer to­gether when it comes to tal­ent and team play.

“There are not a lot of gaps in the league,” said Ben­nett.

As of Fri­day, the Ice have four reg­u­lar sea­son games and had a pre­sea­son tour­na­ment un­der their belts. The sea­son is still in­cred­i­bly young and play­ers are still learn­ing their roles on the team.

How­ever, the Ice coaches feel like the team is pro­gress­ing nicely as the sea­son gets longer.

“I think we’re about where we thought we would be,” said Ben­nett. “We feel we’ll be right there.”

The Ice re­turn 10 play­ers from the team that cap­tured the league cham­pi­onship in its in­au­gu­ral sea­son. How­ever, the play­ers they’ve added either com­peted at the AAA pee­wee level or at the pro­vin­cial level.

Sev­eral play­ers were on the Tri Pen team that won the At­lantic cham­pi­onships two years ago.

Last year, the team over­whelmed their op­po­nents with sheer brute force and a con­stant bar­rage that fea­tured all four lines. While the depth is still there, they’re bring­ing a dif­fer­ent type of game.

“It’s a com­pletely dif­fer­ent unit,” said Ben­nett. “We’re go­ing back to be­ing built for speed. We do have some depth and size.”

Daw­son Mercer, Reilly Mayne, Shai­lynn Snow, Lu­cas Rus­sell, Ethan Crob­sie and Ri­ley Pet­ten are just a few of the key play­ers on this year’s squad. Oth­ers, like David Hibbs and Brae­den Carl­son, are sure to con­trib­ute more and more as the sea­son goes on. Strug­gles with prac­tice Ice time is at a premium in many cen­tres, so much so that AAA teams can have a hard time find­ing time to prac­tice.

It means any grow­ing to­gether has to hap­pen dur­ing a game and can leave lit­tle time to iron out the kinks be­fore the next con­test.

“We don’t feel like we’re where we should be,” said Ben­nett. “We’ve had trou­ble get­ting prac­tice time.”

The play­ers that make up this year’s ver­sion of the Ice are a group that has knowl­edge of both win­ning and los­ing. They’ve won the big games, but they’ve fallen short some­times too.

That all lends it­self to how they han­dle cer­tain sit­u­a­tions and it’s some­thing not lost on their coach.

“This group has ex­pe­ri­ence win­ning and los­ing,” said Ben­nett. “They know they like win­ning more.”

NI­CHOLAS MERCER / THE COM­PASS

Tri Pen AAA ban­tam Ice goal­tender Ri­ley Pet­ten and the rest of his team­mates are look­ing to du­pli­cate the suc­cess of last year’s squad.

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